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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Farts to Diamonds

No, its not what you think. I still produced the farts, but its the farts that Advanced Diamond Technologies wants to convert into Diamond and in fact they are doing it. How did I get to know of that? Of course, I read it at the Scobleizer's blog of the same title. I am shamelessly sensationalizing the news, but couldn't resist the temptation. This is awesome interesting reading. :-) There is more at the original article about the process and uses of the produced diamond.

In other interesting reading is this write up by MR Venkatesh about the impact of recent fed-cuts. Again, worth a read. Well thought out and well written piece.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Down the memory lane

Me and my wife took two days off from our employers and went to Chennai for Republic Day's weekend. The prime purpose was to visit my Grandmom who recently had an eye-surgery done, but along with that we wanted to visit other relatives of mine. We achieved quite a bit of both the objexctives and we got a great break from our daily-routine here at Bangalore.

I requested my Uncle to lend his motorbike during my stay there and he kindly obliged, though it meant he had to use his Car in the bad traffic. He is involved in Sports Umpiring and thankfully he had to officiate all 3 days and the matches were held close by and he too didn't have that bad a time.

Travelling in Autos in Chennai is actually a nightmare. Firstly, the auto wallahs chose where to come. They also chose how much to get paid. And they will also chose their convenience in transporting you. Inspite of having the motorbike, I had to go to Panagal Park on Auto because my Aunt accompanied me and my wife. While on our way, there was a traffic jam, the auto wallah had the audacity to say - "Let me drop you here, its a small walk for you and it will save me a lot of Petrol". Wow, thats literally quite amazing. I couldn't help fume. But in the end, I realized one thing - Autowallahs in Chennai are doing you a favor by transporting you and you have to suffer the consequences of asking others for a favor. If you wanna avoid it, chose not to ask for a favor.

Anyhow, that was the slightly bad part. The good part was we visited a lot of people and a lot of places. I spent my early childhood in Chennai and I have excellent memories of the place. I have sweet memories of almost any place in and around 3 Kms from Alwarpet - RK Mission, Mylapore Tank, Kapalishwarar Temple, BVB, Luz Church Road, TTK Road, Music Academy, Santhome, Mandavali. Though it will take hell of a lot of writing for me to put those memories together in a blog, I managed to share some of them with my wife, who seem to be enjoying it all.

Me, my wife, Cousins and Aunts all got together on saturday night for a good long session of playing cards and it was absolute fun doing it. When I was a kid, me and my cousins indulged in it and it was fun reviving it. In the way of course, we had some hilarious moments.

Well, all the fun is done and its back to business at Yahoo and its layoffs.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Of SEO Handcuffs and Productivity-induced imbalance

While doing my daily blog reading, I came across a few articles that taught me interesting new things.

First was Marksonland Blog piece about Tin Handcuffs of SEO. Having been at Ugenie during its evolving days and seeing the struggle to gain traffic through all the ways, SEM, SEO and offline activities, I know what he is talking about. But this is a thought provoking new insights about how not to get bogged down by the Google Juggernaut and find interesting new ways of gaining traffic. Indeed, at Ugenie, we learnt that gaining traffic through all these methods could prove prohibitively expensive and our attempts to acquire traffic through alternative means such as Social Networking seems pioneering in hindsight. Of all the cases mentioned YouTube, MySpace and Facebook are classic examples of how networking effect was utilized to the full potential. A must read.

The other great article was an interview with Ravi Batra on Paul Kedrosky's blog. His specific mention about increasing productivity and not-so-increasing wages are extremely insightful. I am not a qualified Economist, but I do try out various scenarios of economics as a hobby and one angle that I had never considered was this imbalance being created because of increasing productivity. Excerpts from there:

"When workers become more efficient and their salaries do not rise commensurately, it is not only unfair, it is also unhealthy for the economy. Everybody is happy when productivity soars because of new technology, but if the real average wage trails the productivity jump, a huge problem is created. This is because while productivity is the main source of supply, wages are the main source of demand; so when wages trail productivity, demand trails supply. The natural way to solve this imbalance is to introduce policies that raise wages; but governments around the globe have not done this;"

Again, a must read piece

Monday, January 21, 2008

OpenId and Yahoo cutting down workforce

We are living in interesting times. I know it sounds cliched and it will probably be repeated every year. But the news of both Yahoo and Google opening up as OpenID providers is huge. It literally means that you never have to bother about remembering any other password except your Google/Yahoo passwords. Great to know.

I admit that I knew of Yahoo's plans a little before it was publicly announced as I had been to a tech talk that showed how the whole thing is gonna work. It was quite amazing since Yahoo thought through some of the obvious issues with OpenID - specifically context-specific spam and allowed a different Yahoo ID than your mail id to be your OpenID URL. I love this part.

Secondly, openid.yahoo.com is supposed to be in beta and being an Y! employee, I am on their whitelist. I tried it out and loved it. Firstly for the functionality and ability to easily login to any site supporting openID and secondly, the amount of messaging they are doing to help new users who may not understand openID.

My morning blog reading led me to some unhappy news about Yahoo possibly cutting down 20% of its workforce. There is no official news yet. In fact, there are no rumours yet also. Maybe, me being in Bangalore will hear it later than the guys at Sunnyvale. Anyhow, am I afraid of losing my job? Not much, and indeed the general morale is good and everybody is carrying on with their work. Good for all of us.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Arsenals of Folly

One of the great things about working for a large company like Yahoo or Google as against working for a startup company like Ugenie or AirTight Networks is the ability to have a more rounded up set of interests. This is not just about lifestyle but also about big companies actually having talks and hosting guests that could be of immense interest to many employees. In Yahoo, I have already been to a bunch of them, but I will talk about Google's interest in hosting authors - Authors@Google.

In this video, they have hosted Richard Rhodes who has written a lot of books and a trilogy on Nuclear Weapons. Its amazing to listen Richard Rhodes. Check it out.

BTW, you should pay special attention to the introduction in this video. With due respects to the gentleman, I thought his introduction was too dull and hardly showed the respect due to a eminent author such as Richard Rhodes.

ps: Thanks to Paul Kedrosky's blog for pointing me to this.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Starting Up? Think of a name

For any person or team, putting together a name for a project or a company is an extremely tough task. There are various considerations involved - Will it be a good brand name? Will it stick? What about trademarks? What about URL?

I have found myself in the midst of a bunch of these processes and just found it almost impossible to find reasonably good names. First, my first employer rechristened itself from Wibhu technologies to AirTight Networks after our investors wanted a industry acceptable American sounding name as against an Indian sounding Wibhu. Interestingly Wibhu had a deep philosophical meaning, it being short for "Wi Bhu" with Wi standing for wireless and Bhu being Sanskrit for Earth. They aimed at building a wireless earth. I still love the old name and hate the fact that I am a shareholder of "AirTight Networks" and not "Wibhu".

A few months later, when me and Shanky put together the plan for a customer-oriented mobile bill optimizer, coming up with a name was a challenge, but I am guessing it was Shanky who put together the name of "YourBillBuddy" with which it was launched and is still on.

Moving on, Ugenie also had a significant inner meaning with Genie depicting somebody who would fulfil your (shopping) desires and U being the new focus as against "I" and "My". More recently at Y, we had to find a new name for a different flavor of our product - PacMan and it was yet another exercise all over.

All said and done, finding a reasonable name remains a tough task. Tom White explains how Hadoop got its name from a kid and his preferences over names. John Catherino tells us how he named cojo. Rich Skrenta recently blogged about he came up with the name Blekko for his recent start up. So, if you are starting something up, worth going through these reads to give you some pointers.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Setting up a Home server

Setting up a home server out of your desktop given a static ip is a relatively easy task. Whats normally tougher is to do it without such a facility from your ISP. My ISP, BSNL does not give me a static IP on the plan which I have taken, which is Home UL Plus.

I still wanted to tinker around to get an external face to my new proud acquisition - a desktop. My colleague, Arup, did point me to dyndns.com, which provides a facility to wire together your dynamic ip to a static domain free of cost. Well, if you are lucky enough, it should work.

For me, unfortunately, I also have a Netgear WGR614v7 Wireless router installed at my home which connects to the Modem. Firstly, the modem, UT Starcom UT 300 R2U is hardly the kind of modem which allows for port forwarding. It does have av Virtual Server section, but I couldn't get it to work. More so, I was not sure how modem+router will behave.

Just when I had spent almost the whole evening to get it to work, I hit upon this page, which hit the bulls eye - to use the modem in bridge mode and let your router acquire the IP address. Not just did this work, but my Netgear router also has automatic integration with DynDns. So, updating the IP to the DynDNS server also became a non starter for me.

The final output is http://iyer.homelinux.net which is my new face to the internet. I don't have current plans on how to use this, but I am guessing some interesting things will come up.....

ps: I realize that even with my 600 VA UPS, I can't keep the server up and running in the face of constant threats from the power guys....

Monday, January 07, 2008

Youtube video of a traffic crossing in India. I drive quite a bit in Bangalore and have seen quite a few such crossings. This video seems like slightly accelerated, in terms of speed, but otherwise a true reflection of such a crossing. Its amazing how I feel actually very secure crossing such a point, because I know that every one is trying to make sure of their own safety and probably others' too. Its very different at a automated signal where people blindly want to follow the colors and are very over-ambitious is trying to cross them, specially over yellow light or even on red. thats dangerous alright...

But this is a humorous take

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My Proud Acquisition

I am sorry for not blogging for so long now. I was busy acquiring and setting up my new Desktop. Before reciting a bit about that, let me go down memory lane and tell you about the first computer I owned.

Back in late 1996, when I had entered 11th standard in the Non medical computer science stream, my father bought a second hand computer at throw-away prices to fulfill his ambition of being a computer savvy banker. He worked at Punjab National Bank all his life and its not one of those tech-savvy organizations, but he always admired the potential in computers and wanted to try it out. He wanted to primarily use the desktop to type out the long EO/PO reports he was working on. He had checked out Wordstar earlier and this machine was meant to do that.

Do the first laptop was actually a 20 MHz Intel 80286 with 640 KB RAM with 40 MB HDD. It could run nothing more than DOS 5.0. 1996 was already a time when Pentium processor was out which could work at 133 MHz. It was a rather outdated beginning to my compute power, but was good enough to get a C compiler running and I was off trying to work out my C programs on it.

A few months later, he managed to acquire a second throw-away computer (and I am guessing this time it was free). This time it was a 80386 40 Hz process with, hold-your-breadth, 2 MB of RAM and an awesome 200 MB of disk. It could run DOS 6.22 comfortably and with some creative help, I even managed to get Windows 3.0 running on that machine. It was a great victory for me and my constant desire for compute power.

I finally managed to finish school in 1998 and ended up in SGTB Khalsa College as a BCA student. Since I was studying computers, I wanted a little more than the 80386 I got, which by that time started looking like a Museum piece by then.

Finally in 1999, with a loan supported by my father and the earnings from the tuitions I was giving out, I ended up acquiring my first "new" computer. This time it was a AMD Athlon 350 Hz processor with 64 MB of RAM and 8 GB of disk. It also brought along a 33.6 Kbps modem which was used to connect to the then prevalent VSNL internet service. This was certainly exciting as this machine, was pretty much contemporary by 1999 standards and could almost do anything I desired out of it.

As of the modern day, last week, I acquired a Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz machine with 2 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD. With a 256 Kbps Broadband connection, DVD writer and a Ubuntu installation, it completes all the requirements I have of it. I am proud to have acquired it.

I am also proud to have been an active part of the Moore's evolution. :-)

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